Re: Coal taste
The coals should impart NO taste at all. If you are getting coal taste, then something is definetly wrong. I once got a batch of QLs, and every bowl tasted like gasoline. I tossed the QLs and got some good quality coals.
I prefer Japanese style coals. They light easily with a torch-style lighter. They impart no taste at all. I like to light off one corner, until it glows. Then let it sit on the foil for a couple of minutes. Then start off with some gentle pulls on the hose. the smoke is light for the first couple of minutes, but as the coal gets hotter, the smoke and flavor increase proportionately.
I have used natural coals, sometimes. I prefer to light a Japanese coal first, start smoking as described above, then place a natural coal, on top of the Japanese coal. The natural coal ignites slowly, but by the time, the Japanese coal is expired, the Natural coal is glowing properly, and I continue smoking. Try this procedure.